I just got an unexpected letter from my past self; could the libraries help me do it again?

Chris Peterson SM '13
June 25, 2016

Earlier today I opened an envelope to find a letter to myself dated May 2008. I had completely forgotten that, as an RA in the Social Justice Hall at UMass, my RD had made us do these as a reflective exercise and then stuffed them in a shoebox, which she found a few weeks ago and mailed out to us.

It was a real mind-explosion, I'll tell you what.

My RD and I were talking about how cool it was (she did it too) and how we would like to do it ourselves again but the logistics are kind of tough especially if it’s yourself try to manage holding (but not opening) a letter for yourself (part of the mind-explosion comes from having completely forgotten I did this). Sands Fish and I were talking about how you could do this, and we thought: what about libraries?

So, here’s a pitch: we could pilot this at MIT. Have every incoming freshman (and/or graduate student), perhaps as part of their orientation, write a letter to their future self. By default, it could be tied to their graduation, and they’d receive it with their diploma; there could also be the option to date it if you wanted to extend/shorten/specify the window. Or perhaps 10 years out, tied to their MIT alumni database address (maybe Resource Dev would like this and be willing to support it).

If this works well here, you could imagine this expanding outside of the academic context to municipal libraries that hold these kinds of documents in a self-addressed forever-stamped envelope with a send-back date on it. Libraries as a sort of time-capsule facilitator, a way to store not only common collective memory, but individual/reflective memory as well.

Why do you care about library spaces, collections, and services?: 

because libraries Own


Chris Peterson on July 13, 2016

Note: maybe this could be supported by a grant for libraries as a community anchor? https://www.imls.gov/nofo/national-leadership-grants-libraries-fy16-noti...